by Ed Horstmann
In the weeks before Christmas the campus of Round Hill Community Church undergoes a quiet but profound transformation. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the pulpit in the sanctuary is removed, and week by week, a beautifully designed manger scene is installed—complete with crib for the Christ Child, hay for the animals, camels for the Magi, and a little lantern to chase away the darkness.
An Angel Tree is placed in the Parlor and on its branches are cards that include the names of children from Norwalk, with their simple wishes for Christmas. In the first two weeks of December members and friends of Round Hill Community Church purchase the requested gifts and place them beneath the tree where they remind us that the reason for the season is to reach out to the world with love.
In late November, the great tree in front of the Community House is strung with lights, and on the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving, the necessary electrical connections are completed, and those lights spring to life, announcing that Advent is near.
These physical changes to the campus are important to us who visit the space on a regular basis for worship, work, or to attend a program. They might catch the eye of those whose daily travels take them along Round Hill Road. Yet these subtle transformations will not merit much attention beyond the local community. And so it was with the first Christmas. In the backcountry of a vast empire, a profound transformation occurred; a child was born to a family with barely the means to sustain themselves, let alone a vulnerable baby.
And yet this seems to be the way that God loves to draw alongside our lives: off center rather than main stage, in the natural events and rhythms of life, in actions that add a little light here and there, and that make way for hope and generosity. God is with us and for us where we have prepared space to receive more love and faith and hope (even if those actions don’t make the news).
God is with us and for us as we dedicate ourselves and our resources to the well-being of the world. “Let it be to me according to your word,” said Mary to the Angel Gabriel when he delivered the news of her role in the unfolding dreams of God. “Let it be. . .” she said, as if to say, “Yes, I will make room for your life in mine, for your hopes in my hopes.”
As we transform our physical spaces to make way for the light and music and beauty of the Christmas season, may we be just as dedicated to the preparation of our interior lives, so that we can receive all that God intends for us, and bring light and life to others in whatever way possible. For as the old carol says, “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”